Chapter 6: To Speak Of Many Things: The Lojban sumti

9. sumti-based descriptions

As stated in c6-§2, most descriptions consist of just a descriptor and a selbri. (In this chapter, the selbri have always been single gismu, but of course any selbri, however complex, can be employed in a description. The syntax and semantics of selbri are explained in Chapter 5.) In the intervening sections, inner and outer quantifiers have been added to the syntax. Now it is time to discuss a description of a radically different kind: the sumti-based description.

A sumti-based description has a sumti where the selbri would normally be, and the inner quantifier is required — it cannot be implicit. An outer quantifier is permitted but not required.

A full theory of sumti-based descriptions has yet to be worked out. One common case, however, is well understood. Compare the following:

✥9.1  re do cu nanmu
Two-of you are-men.

✥9.2  le re do cu nanmu
The two-of you are men.

✥9.1 simply specifies that of the group of listeners, size unknown, two are men. ✥9.2, which has the sumti-based description “le re do”, says that of the two listeners, all (the implicit outer quantifier “ro”) are men. So in effect the inner quantifier “re” gives the number of individuals which the inner sumti “do” refers to.

Here is another group of examples:

✥9.3  re le ci cribe cu bunre
Two-of the three bears are-brown.

✥9.4   le re le ci cribe cu bunre
The two-of the three bears are-brown.

✥9.5   pa le re le ci cribe cu bunre
One-of the two-of the three bears are-brown.

In each case, “le ci cribe” restricts the bears (or alleged bears) being talked of to some group of three which the speaker has in mind. ✥9.3 says that two of them (which two is not stated) are brown. ✥9.4 says that a specific pair of them are brown. ✥9.5 says that of a specific pair chosen from the original three, one or the other of that pair is brown.